Friday, 11 April 2014

1984 - Home Computing For The Masses

Thirty years ago today Alan Sugar (now Lord Sugar) launched the Amstrad CPC464. At £199 it made home computing available to the masses. 


A year later the Amstrad PCW 8256 came on to the market. As a dedicated word processing computer (PCW) complete with a printer, it was the perfect machine to help me write up my MA degree thesis: such a change from me travelling back and fore home and university getting my mother to use her type-writer to redo endless updates to my BSc dissertation!

For those who know or care about these things the PCW 8256 had a massive 256KB of RAM and a floppy disk drive. And Amstrad, of course, is a contraction of Alan Michael Sugar Trading. 

Thank you Lord Sugar!


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Right To Recall MPs: Another Broken Coalition Promise

Power Of Recall: All Talk, No Action. Maria Miller Must Be Relieved

Do you remember when the coalition came to power they promised a "new politics" aimed at "removing the stain left by the expenses scandal".

They enshrined with in their written Coalition Agreement a commitment to introduce a new "power of recall" which would give voters the right to force a by-election if 10% of constituents signed a petition believing that their MP had been engaged in "serious wrong doing".

When it came to introducing the Right to Recall, the job was given to Nick Clegg. 

Instead of his promised "biggest shake up of our democracy in 178 years" Clegg decided that the public should not be allowed to decide if an MP's apparent behaviour was worthy of recall, proposing instead to hand that decision to a parliamentary committee - in fact, the same committee that ruled last week on the Basingstoke MP Maria Miller's expenses.

As we approach the last year of the coalition government nothing has been delivered on this promise. In fact, any possibility of introducing such an act has been largely buried.

Maria Miller must be very relieved.
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For Information: The 2010 Conservative manifesto said:
Our People Power manifesto will give local people the direct power to recall MPs found guilty of wrongdoing without having to wait for a General Election. Conservatives will empower local people to cast a vote of no confidence in their elected representative and bring an end to the concept of the ‘safe seat’. This proposal will make MPs directly answerable to their constituents over the whole of a Parliament – not just every five years.
How the Right to Recall process will work:
The recall process will begin with the filling of a notice-of-intent-to-recall petition, to be signed by at least 100 constituents and submitted to the local returning officer.
Once registered, a recall petition can be circulated within the constituency, petitions for the recall of MPs must accumulate signatures equal to 10 per cent of the local electorate
Any petition that crosses the signature threshold within 90 days would trigger a by-election.


Saturday, 5 April 2014

Does The Royal Berks Hospital Have A Future?

This may be a case of speaking the unspeakable, but reading through the pages of this week's Reading Chronicle I began to wonder if the already beleaguered Royal Berks Hospital really has a long-term future.

First there's a report of the RBH board meeting last week which suggests the future of the hospital hinges on a massive £15.5million cut to a "challenging budget", including £9.25m to pay, in the year ahead.

Then there's a report of a possible loss of a £1m sexual health contract with the some lack of clarity as to whether "hospital bean counters" (a charming expression!) had factored this in to the aforesaid budget.

Another director hits out at the "appalling" conditions some staff are forced to work in.

Also a report on increased waiting time for cancer patients while a broken scanner gets fixed, with an admission that "In hindsight it was foreseeable, but it slipped under the radar".

Add to this a sixth successive failure to meet Accident and Emergency waiting times and continuing concerns over clinical errors.

Given the recent upheavals and swift departures of the board chairman followed by the chief executive, there's little wonder that some now sense a growing unease about the place. 

One remedy may be to put up big signs saying "Under new management" and hope for the best against a back ground of all this tumult.

But then a letter to the Chroicle's editor reminds us that the Tory MP for Bracknell apparently wants to "merge" (close!) Ascot's Heatherwood Hospital and the hospitals at Frimley Park, Wexham Park and the RBH and replace them with a "super hospital" on one of the M4 junctions. 

Has the Bracknell MP let the cat out of the bag? 

Is the current malaise at the RBH simply a way of making the search for an alternative more palatable? 

It is certainly the case that the RBH consistently fails to fulfil any responsilitibies to the immediate neighbourhood around the London Road campus - claiming it is a "regional hospital" when local residents demand more attention to car parking.

In the 1990s I fought a campaign against the health authorities turning the iconic north block in to a hotel. More lately the RBH entered into a bonkers dalliance with Tory MP Rob Wilson to use it as a secondary school. 

Before the last general election David Cameron promised no "top down" reorganisation of the NHS - then when in power, embarked upon the greatest reorganisation and privatisation of the NHS since it was set up by Labour's Nye Bevan in 1948.

You can't trust the Tories with the NHS. 

And no one should take the continued presence of the RBH in our town for granted - if we do, it may be gone before we know it.